Running Late(r): Late-Night T Service to Start Late March/Early April

When it comes to post-midnight T service, we’ve gotta use it or lose it.

Late Night T

Photo illustration by Andrew Davis

Praise the ghost of John Winthrop: Late-night MBTA service is finally real. Starting in late March, the T and select bus routes will stay open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. So please, ride the damn thing.

When the MBTA tried its Night Owl bus service back in the 2000s, it died quickly from lack of ridership. The new program was designed as a one-year trial run, and will cost the state $20 million. Granted, things are a little different this time. For one, there’ll be actual trains running along T routes (instead of shuttle buses), and we now have apps to help us time our ride.

But let’s do some quick math: On an average Saturday night, the MBTA says 5,200 people ride between midnight and 1 a.m. Let’s say that extending hours will yield another 10,400 riders per weekend night from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., or about 1.1 million extra rides per year. At $2 a pop, that’s $2.2 million in revenue—about $18 million less than the cost of operations. Some of that will be defrayed by corporate sponsors, but it’s up to us to show that it’s worth their money—and to show politicians that voters will riot if this service ever goes away.

Keep in mind that riding the T after midnight will require some planning. After 1 a.m., trains are slated to run every 10 to 15 minutes, and buses every 15 to 20. As we all know from experience with the MBTA, that’s probably an optimistic estimate. So when you look at your phone at 1:30 a.m. and see that the next Red Line train is 23 minutes away, don’t take a cab. Don’t even walk. Grab another drink or bite to eat and, when it comes, take the T. That is, if you want it back next year.

  • TeamRik

    I would love to comment that the Illustration by Andrew Davis is excellent and the quality is top notch and looks exceptionally well on your website!..
    Crazy Excited that after it was announced months ago it’s finally Time!…

  • Matthew Devine

    Have you also considered the proportion of late night users that are already monthly or weekly pass holders? They’ll be using the late night train, but not contributing to any new revenue. .

  • Gary Kon

    More importantly, added tax revenue created by late night business…

  • John Finn Jr

    What about the commuter rail ? Iff I could take the commuter rail into Boston from Worcester, I would not have to drive into Boston.

  • Sean Reno

    It just doesn’t make any sense that the T doesn’t run until the bars close. They’re just asking for people to drive drunk.

  • boblothrope

    The Night Owl didn’t fail due to lack of ridership. It failed because the T refused to structure it according to demand, and insisted on running along all the subway lines, even though only some of the lines justified it. They also insisted on a whole lot of unnecessary police and inspectors standing around at Government Center, and billed those costs to the Night Owl budget.

    I know of no other city in the U.S. (or elsewhere) that’s as transit-oriented as Boston, yet closes down all the trains *and* buses so early. Never mind NYC, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco — if Philadelphia, Houston, Baltimore, and Phoenix can run their trunk bus lines until 3
    AM+, why can’t we?

    • boblothrope

      Also, another problem was the T’s contract which provided double pay after 2 AM.

  • Laura Murray

    The biggest problem with the T is that they don’t stay on schedule. I work until midnight and the Orange liine is horrible. It’s amazing if I can catch my connecting bus. I end up walking over a mile in the freezing cold late at night. Worst part is I usually miss it by one minute. When a schedule says every 10 minutes you should never see a sign saying next train in 17 minutes!

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